WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, the Washington Post reported Monday, citing unnamed people familiar with the discussions.
In a letter sent to Justice Department officials, the senator's attorney, Stephen Ryan, asserts that the plot was timed to derail the political rise of Menendez, D-N.J., one of Washington's most ardent critics of the Castro regime. At the time, Menendez was running for re-election and was preparing to assume the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.
A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which functions as the island's U.S. diplomatic outpost, did not respond to requests for comment.
The allegations against Menendez erupted in public in November 2012, when the Daily Caller, a conservative website, quoted two Dominican women claiming Menendez had paid them for sex.
The FBI investigated the prostitution claims but was unable to corroborate them. Last year, three Dominican women who had initially claimed to reporters that they had been paid to have sex with Menendez recanted their story.